From the spectacular portal gate of the Michaelertor—you can't miss the four gigantic statues of Hercules and his labors—you climb the marble Kaiserstiege (Emperor's Staircase) to begin a tour of a long, repetitive suite of 18 conventionally luxurious state rooms. The red-and-gold decoration (19th-century imitation of 18th-century rococo) tries to look regal, but much like the empire itself in its latter days, it's only going through the motions, and ends up looking merely official. Still, these are the rooms where the ruling family of the Habsburg empire ate, slept, and dealt with family tragedy—in the emperor's study on January 30, 1889, Emperor Franz Josef was told about the tragic death of his only son, Crown Prince Rudolf, who had shot himself and his soulmate, 17-year-old Baroness Vetsera, at the hunting lodge at Mayerling. Among the few signs of life are Emperor Franz Josef's spartan, iron field bed, on which he slept every night, and Empress Elisabeth's wooden gymnastics
equipment (obsessed with her looks, Sisi suffered from anorexia and was fanatically devoted to exercise). In the Sisi Museum, part of the regular tour, five rooms display many of her treasured possessions, including her jewels, the gown she wore the night before her marriage, her dressing gown, and the opulent court salon railroad car she used. There is also a death mask made after her assassination by an anarchist in Geneva in 1898, as well as the murder weapon that killed her: a wooden-handled file.